Pauline Presents… To Boldly Go: a few thoughts on Star Trek

Lieutenant Uhura at her station.
Lt Uhura at her station.

They say the world is divided between fans of Star Wars and Star Trek. I come down firmly on the Star Trek side. While Star Wars might be more action-packed, colourful and noisy, Star Trek gives you a lot more to think about…and to write about. In fact, I devote a whole section of my publication Screen Captions to Star Trek.

Not that I’m a Star Trek nerd. I don’t see the Star Trek universe as a real entity that must have internal logic and consistency. As a writer, I see it as a construct, a work-in-progress that is being continually moulded and modified by hundreds of company executives, producers, writers, directors, cinematographers, designers, art-directors and make-up artists. And since that process has been occurring for almost sixty years so far, Star Trek is also an evolving product of its times.

How this evolutionary process works can best be seen in one of Star Trek’s most interesting species, the Trills. The Trills first appeared in a single episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but went on to play a major role in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where a Trill was a member of the senior crew. Between those two appearances, the species underwent a major overhaul. I explore how and why this happened in The Trouble with Trills.

Star Trek was conceived in the early 1960s, a period when women were beginning to make their mark on popular culture. In many ways, Star Trek was a pioneer in giving women a prominent role in television drama, but they might well have gone further. While Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry was a cad and a womaniser in his personal life, he actually had much more liberal views about women than most of his male contemporaries. As I discovered when writing Star Trek and the Feminine, if he had had his way, women would have played a much larger role in running the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Original Series than the network executives would accept.

However, while Roddenberry was happy to have women well-represented on the Enterprise, he still found it difficult to come to terms with relationships between her crew’s men and women. This becomes evident in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the relationships, or lack thereof, between its senior crew, a subject I explore in Wesley, I am your father…or am I?

Even after Gene Roddenberry’s time on Star Trek, this discomfort with relationships lingered on into Star Trek Voyager. I’m a great fan of the series, not least for its strong female characters, but one thing that has perplexed me is the dearth of intimate relationships on board, despite the crew being in its prime and a very long way from home. It’s a subject I speculate on in fiction in Lovelorn: a Star Trek Voyager story, but I also explore it in more depth in Life and Love in the Delta Quadrant.

As most fans of Star Trek will tell you, while we admire the franchise as a whole, we also recognise that there are instances when the writing falls short. In Life, Death and the Star Fleet Captain I look at two episodes from two series — Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek Enterprise — to explore how one writer might have learned from others’ mistakes.

You’ll find a few more of my musings on Star Trek in Screen Captions and if you have friends who are Star Trek fans, please pass this newsletter onto them.

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